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The ABS has a lead role in avoiding duplication in the collection of statistics, attaining comparability between collections undertaken by different agencies, and maximising the utilisation of statistics.
Australia has a world-class statistical environment, where a wide range of data from a range of sources can be compared and evaluated. The coherence of the statistical environment underpins the democratic processes. Coherent data gives all citizens and governments the capability of comparing different aspects of Australia’s society, economy and environment, and assessing Australia’s progress. The ABS produces a range of widely adopted statistical standards for a meaningful statistical picture of society, the economy, and to a lesser extent, the environment.
The increasing complexity of the world places pressure on statistical standards. As the real world changes, statistics may lose their relevance, leading to a reduction in the quality and usefulness of the statistical information. In maintaining standards, the ABS must balance the potential decreasing relevance of statistics, against the significant cost of introducing new standards and the desire for comparability over time.
Various aspects of statistical standards and infrastructure are needed for the effective collection and release of data, including:
The ABS is at the forefront in adopting international standards, either by adopting the published standards or by developing Australian derivatives which facilitate international comparability. All national statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies align with international equivalents. The ABS contributes significantly to the development of many key international statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies.
The ABS also develops national statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies, which are applied, as appropriate, to all ABS statistical collections, including business and household surveys. The ABS takes a leading role by encouraging other Australian, state and territory government agencies to adopt these standards, frameworks and methodologies in their statistical activities. Extensive information about ABS standards is available on the ABS website (http://www.abs.gov.au—Methods, Classifications, Concepts and Standards).
The ABS also works closely with other agencies involved in the development of standards and frameworks. For more information see Chapter 9, Engagement with users and producers of statistics.
The following sections summarise the ABS activities in developing and implementing statistical standards during 2007–2008.
PROGRESS ON DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS AND CLASSIFICATIONS
ABS staff have continued to be active participants in the review of key international macro-economic standards, which began in 2003. The review focused on maintaining the relevance of economic statistics in a changing environment and on ensuring the various economic standards are appropriately aligned. At its meeting in February 2007, the United Nations Statistical Commission agreed on a proposed set of changes. Drafts of the core chapters of the resultant, revised System of National Accounts and the Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, 2008 have been completed, incorporating significant ABS input. Work on the remaining chapters of the System of National Accounts is to be completed by the end of 2008 and release of the updated manuals is expected by mid 2009.
The ABS intends to implement the revised macro-economic standards, in conjunction with the implementation of Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, 2006, for the 2008-09 release of the annual national accounts in November 2009. The various quarterly releases (including the national accounts, balance of payments and financial accounts) will be released on the basis of the new standards, beginning with the September quarter 2009 releases. Any changes required to the monthly balance of payments and international trade series will occur with the July 2009 release.
The ABS consulted key users on implementation plans for the revised standards. This was followed by the release of an Information Paper: Introduction of Revised International Standards in ABS Economic Statistics in 2009 (cat. no. 5310.0.55.001). The ABS plans to release further information on the statistical impacts of the changes during 2009, well before their introduction in the official statistics.
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS MANUAL
The Balance of Payments Manual is published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and is the international statistical standard for balance of payments and international investment position statistics. The current edition (the fifth) was released in 1993 and adopted by the ABS in its publications in 1998.
The IMF commenced the process of revising the Balance of Payments Manual in 2003. The ABS has been involved in all stages of the revision process through involvement in technical expert groups, contributing technical papers, commenting on drafts and membership of the IMF’s Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics. The revised standard is consistent with other international macro-economic statistical standards and is to be published by the IMF in late 2008.
The ABS will adopt the sixth edition of the Balance of Payments Manual in the August 2009 issue of International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0) and the September quarter 2009 issue of Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (cat. no. 5302.0).
BENCHMARK DEFINITION OF FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT
The Benchmark Definition of Foreign Direct Investment is published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It is the international standard for foreign direct investment statistics. The current edition (the third) was released in 1996 and adopted by the ABS, along with the Balance of Payments Manual in 1998.
Revision of the Benchmark Definition was undertaken by the OECD as a joint process with the IMF’s revision of the Balance of Payments Manual, to ensure consistency of the two standards on direct investment. The technical expert groups formed for the revision of the Balance of Payments Manual also provided direction to the revision of the Benchmark Definition. The ABS has also been involved in the revision process, by contributing technical papers, assisting in the drafting of the manual and chairing the Working Group on International Investment Statistics. The revised standard is consistent with the Balance of Payments Manual, as well as providing guidance on other analytical presentations of direct investment statistics.
The fourth edition of the Benchmark Definition was published by the OECD in April 2008. The ABS will adopt the revised standard in the September quarter 2009 issue of Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (cat. no. 5302.0) and in the 2009 calendar year reporting to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, subsequently published in the 2009 issue of International Investment Position, Supplementary Statistics, Australia (cat. no. 5352.0).
MANUAL ON STATISTICS OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN SERVICES
The Manual on Statistics of International Trade in Services is published by a consortium of international agencies consisting of the United Nations, the European Commission, the IMF, the OECD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It provides guidance on the collection and compilation of statistics on international trade in services beyond that provided by the IMF’s Balance of Payments Manual. In particular, focus is given to providing definitions of more detailed service categories and to the relationship between trade in services as defined by the Balance of Payments Manual, and trade in services as defined by the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services.
A taskforce supported by the OECD has been working on revising the Manual to ensure continued consistency with the Balance of Payments Manual. The ABS has contributed to the revision process by providing comments on drafts of the revised Manual and will be attending the Working Group on Trade in Goods and Services in late 2008, when the final version of the manual will be approved.
The ABS currently publishes information according to the more detailed service categories defined in the Manual, and will adopt the revised classification in the August 2009 issue ofInternational Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (cat. no. 5368.0) and the September quarter 2009 issue of Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia(cat. no. 5302.0).
AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND STANDARD INDUSTRIAL CLASSIFICATION, 2006
The ABS continues to work on implementing the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, 2006 (ANZSIC 2006). The classification is used as a basis for the collection and dissemination of both economic and social statistics. During 2007-2008, the following publications were released on the new classification:
Further information on the impact of ANZSIC 2006 on ABS statistics can be found in the Information Paper: Update on ANZSIC 2006 Implementation, Australia (cat. no. 1295.0.55.001).
AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND STANDARD RESEARCH CLASSIFICATION
The Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) was released by the ABS on 31 March 2008. It was largely funded by the Australian Research Council, responsible for developing and implementing the ‘Excellence in Research in Australia’ program. The new classification is more closely aligned to research currently being undertaken in Australia and New Zealand, and will enable accuracy in data collection and analysis, especially in emerging fields of research such as nanotechnology and climate change. The updated research classification system will be used across government, the higher education sector and the private sector to:
ANZSRC contains about 40% more research codes than the 1998 Australian Standard Research Classification, which it replaces. The former Research Fields Courses and Disciplines codes have been updated with Field of Research codes, and the socioeconomic objective codes have been refreshed. The new classification includes concordance tables with the earlier classification and it maps the OECD’s Fields of Science and Technology classification, to enable international benchmarking.
The ANZSRC was developed, in collaboration with Statistics New Zealand, following extensive consultation with users of the previous classification. Development was guided by a technical reference group comprising representatives from key user groups. About 70 experts, from a range of areas, also provided advice and approximately 300 public submissions were received during the consultation phase.
In 2007, the ABS reviewed the 2001 Australian and New Zealand Standard Product Classification, which was the standard for the presentation of product based statistics. The review revealed the classification had been poorly adopted and was no longer internationally comparable given the release of Central Products Classification version 2. As a result of this review, the ABS decommissioned the Australian and New Zealand Standard Product Classification as the Australian statistical standard for products.
The ABS has initiated a program to adopt the United Nation’s Central Products Classification version 2, to link all products classifications used within the ABS. The Central Products Classification is a multipurpose classification covering all goods and services, and recent developments to increase the level of detail and comparability with other international standards have positioned it well to replace Australian and New Zealand Standard Product Classification.
PROGRESS ON DEVELOPING AUSTRALIAN STANDARDS AND CLASSIFICATIONS
The (draft) second edition of the Australian Culture and Leisure Classification (ACLC) was released for public consultation in February 2008. The revision has allowed for an update of the concordances with other standard ABS classifications, which have been recently revised, such as ANZSIC 2006 and the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) 2006.
The classification focuses on the economic side of culture and leisure activities: the way culture and leisure activities are linked to the economy through direct expenditure and employment. It does this through three classifications: the Industrial Classification, the Product Classification, and the Occupation Classification. The Industrial Classification defines the business units that either directly produce or provide culture and leisure goods and services for the use of the end consumer, or otherwise enable people to make use of these goods and services. The Product Classification defines culture and leisure goods and services. The Occupation Classification lists occupations that can be considered to be part of the culture and leisure sector. These occupations may be undertaken on a paid or unpaid basis.
It is expected that the final version of the second edition of the Australian Culture and Leisure Classification will be released in July 2008.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT PURPOSE CLASSIFICATION
The ABS developed the Local Government Purpose Classification (LGPC) for use in the collection, analysis and dissemination of Australian statistical and administrative data relating to local government finance transactions by purpose. The classification was finalised this financial year and will be released in August 2008. There has been extensive consultation with external users during the development, to ensure that the classification reflects the functions of local government in Australia and meets the data requirements of clients.
In developing the LGPC, a principle aim has been the alignment with international standards developed by the United Nations, namely the Classification of Functions of Government and the Classification of Environmental Protection Expenditure and Activities. The approach improves the international comparability of local government finance statistics.
Emphasis has also been placed on aligning the classification with the existing national standard for all levels of government, the Government Purpose Classification, which lacks detail on some key local government functions. This ensures comparability between levels of government and will be reinforced by pursuit of further harmonisation in the future.
DEFINING SPORT AND EXERCISE, A CONCEPTUAL MODEL
The ABS discussion paper, Defining Sport and Exercise, a Conceptual Model (cat. no. 4149.0), was released in February 2008 for public consultation. A conceptual model has been constructed from an analysis of varying concepts of ‘physical activity’ and ‘sport’, which are overlaid across four ‘time domains’, so that the context of the activity can be understood. The model outlines what activities may be considered in scope for research of varying concepts, such as exercise, physical recreation and sport, as well as illustrating the similarities, differences and overlap of parameters that define sport and exercise.
The paper also discusses how different sport and physical activity surveys conducted by the ABS correspond to the proposed conceptual model, thus providing insights into how the differences in definitions and methodologies may impact on what is being measured, as well as the results being achieved.
The ABS discussion paper, Defining Sport and Exercise, a Conceptual Model, presents a draft conceptual model defining key concepts commonly used in survey research on sport and exercise.
In May 2008, the Standard Australian Classification of Countries 2nd Ed. (cat. no. 1269.0) was released. This edition incorporates Revisions 2.01, 2.02 and 2.03 of the first edition of the classification as well as changes that have occurred since Revision 2.03.
AUSTRALIAN STANDARD GEOGRAPHICAL CLASSIFICATION
Since 1984, the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), updated annually, has provided a basis for collecting, disseminating and analysing statistics that have a spatial component. It is used throughout the ABS and is widely accepted in the statistical community. During 2007-08, Australian Standard Geographical Classification 2007 (ASGC) (cat. no. 1216.0) was released, along with the its accompanying publications:
In order to complete the suite of publications for ASGC, the following publications were also released:
Mesh blocks are the new building block for statistical geography. They are much smaller than collection districts, with approximately 30–60 dwellings. Australia has been divided into approximately 325,000 mesh blocks, compared to about 39,000 census collection districts. The advantage of mesh blocks is they can be aggregated to, or used to accurately approximate, any medium or large sized geographical region. Therefore, data geographically coded to mesh blocks can be accurately recast to other geographical regions.
Mesh blocks will result in more accurate geographical based statistics, which should ultimately lead to improved government policy formulation and service delivery.
Limited statistics at mesh block level were released for the 2006 Census of Population and Housing, as experimental data. In order to produce an up-to-date version of mesh blocks for the 2011 Census of Population and Housing, further development work is being undertaken.
Mesh blocks are the new building block for statistical geography.
EMERGING PRESSURE ON INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDED TO MANAGE THE ABS’ STANDARDS AND CLASSIFICATIONS
Metadata is fundamental to the ability of any organisation to manage its valuable information assets, in a responsible manner. Metadata is information used to find data, or to assist a user to understand that data (definitions and descriptions) or to guide a user in the appropriate use of that data (quality). For example, metadata is used to help locate specific web pages from the vast amount information available on the web. The ABS is a large producer of information, and metadata is essential in fulfilling our stewardship role in managing this resource on behalf of all Australians.
The ABS has a metadata management infrastructure, which is aging and poorly integrated. Much of the metadata about ABS’ data is stored in local facilities, which are associated with a collection, and is difficult to reuse between processes, or to access as a corporate resource across collections.
In recent years, the ABS has been working on developing an end-to-end Metadata Management Strategy, to establish a metadata environment that:
Once finalised and implemented, this strategy will have considerable benefits for users of ABS statistics, making it easier for them to find, understand and use ABS statistics effectively. It will also align the ABS metadata environment, with the associated international standards for metadata, such as the standard for data element definitions (ISO/IEC-11179). During 2007–08, the ABS released a new data element repository, which will enable it to manage data elements in line with international standards. This repository is currently being integrated with systems supporting the ABS’ population surveys program.